Thousands remain in the dark days after fierce storms knocked out power

Via Rail plans to resume trains on its Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal routes Tuesday, the rail service said days after a CN train derailment forced the cancellation of those trains scheduled for Christmas and Boxing Day.

CN confirmed in a statement that the tracks where its train derailed on Christmas Eve will be reopened Tuesday and said Via Rail plans to run all trains on the route, but on a modified schedule.

That modified schedule will be available on Via Rail’s website and communicated to impacted customers “as soon as possible,” it said.

Thousands of Canadians spent another day in the cold and dark, as hydro crews continued working to restore electricity to those affected by the power outages caused by fierce winter storms last week.

As of Monday afternoon, power was still out for over 55,000 Hydro-Québec customers, more than 24,000 Hydro One customers and more than 1,100 clients of NB Power.

New Brunswick Power said it was one of the largest provincewide outage events of the last 25 years and it had more than 500 resource personnel working who had restored power to more than 99,000 customers as of Monday morning.

However, NB Power said it was confident there would be some customers still without power on Tuesday.

Hydro One said it had restored power to more than 412,000 customers since the extreme weather began, but persisting road closures were impacting its crews’ ability to access restricted areas.

Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu said it was hard to provide a precise estimate for when power would be restored to the customers still without due to the complexity of the remaining jobs.

Brochu said more snow and high winds had complicated access to the sites, many of which were set back from roads and could only be reached by crews on snowshoes or snowmobiles. About half the remaining outages affected five customers or less, which means crews were “working very hard to restore a few people,” she said.

“We might be working three, four, five hours for a team of two to restore five people,” she told reporters in a virtual press briefing Monday morning. “It’s worth it, don’t get me wrong, but it means that instead of working five, six, seven hours and restoring 1,000 people, every (segment) is really slow.”

She acknowledged customer frustration with the inaccurate estimated timelines on Hydro-Québec’s website, saying crews sometimes discover more problems once they arrive. While the “vast majority” of outages will be resolved by Wednesday, she couldn’t promise that nobody would be in the dark by New Year’s Eve.

“Nobody will be forgotten,” she said. “We will have no surrender and no peace until everybody is connected back.”

southern Ontario’s Niagara Region was in its third day under a state of emergency on Tuesday due to the storm, and some services like garbage and recycling collection were canceled for Boxing Day.

Environment Canada issued a snow squall warning for the region and warned of reduced visibility due to snowfall that could last until Tuesday afternoon in some areas.

Other parts of southern Ontario like Barrie, Parry Sound and Grey-Bruce remained under similar warnings Monday afternoon.

The weather agency also issued wind, freezing rain and snowfall warnings for parts of Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as for extreme cold in some parts of the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

Meanwhile, it said temperatures will rise well above the freezing mark throughout much of southern Quebec and Atlantic Canada beginning Wednesday.

Temperatures in Montreal are expected to rise to between 0 C and 9 C during the day and up to 7 C at night. Similar conditions are expected further east, with temperatures approaching 10 C in Fredericton and Saint John, NB and Charlottetown, while Halifax could hit 11 C on Saturday.

The warmer weather is expected to last at least four days, until New Year’s Eve.

On the other side of the country in British Columbia, four people died and dozens were injured after a bus rolled over on an icy highway on Saturday night.

Environment Canada warned of ice buildup from ongoing freezing rain in the southern area spanning Whistler and the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan Valley, as well as a special weather statement for much of the Interior, also for possible freezing rain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 26, 2022.

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